Leaders take united approach to transformation of Ipswich town centre

Ben Gummer and David Ellesmere are both backing Ipswich Central's vision.

Ben Gummer and David Ellesmere are both backing Ipswich Central's vision. - Credit: Archant

Politicians from across the political spectrum have united to give a broad welcome to Ipswich Central’s proposals to transform the heart of Ipswich.

A summit meeting of councils and business organisations has been called by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership to try to work together to bring some of the proposals in the document forward.

And in a sign of things to come, work on the £4million refurbishment of the Tower Ramparts centre, which will become Sailmakers later this year, is now underway.

The masterplan – unveiled by us yesterday – has received a cross-party welcome from politicians who see its potential to kick-start the town’s regeneration as a major regional centre.

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere is possibly the most crucial figure in bringing the plans forward – his authority is responsible for planning and is the only body to so far have committed cash to the project to reinvent the Cornhill.

However, Ipswich Central has been concerned about its support for a proposal to build large new shops on the former Civic Centre site – which is outside the Central Quarter of the plan.

But Mr Ellesmere now appears to recognise that the proposal to develop large new stores along Upper Brook Street could be a viable alternative.

And he said that his authority was keen to work with Ipswich Central to bring the masterplan to life.

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He said: “We are already working towards this.

“We have committed £800,000 towards the improvements to the Cornhill and we are going ahead with proposals to develop more high-quality office space in Princes Street to help develop that as a business area for the town.

“There is a great deal that is very interesting here and the proposal to build new ‘big box’ shops along Upper Brook Street is certainly something to look at.”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer gave the proposals an unqualified welcome.

He said: “This is an exceptional plan by local retailers who know the town and know how to make it work much better.

It is the only serious plan on the table – and it shows the way to really improve the town.”

Mr Gummer was hoping to work with the LEP and the county council on the scheme – and also hoped the borough would play an active role.

If it does, Mr Ellesmere can expect support from opposition leader Nadia Cenci, who said the proposal was very similar to that which she proposed earlier this year.

Suffolk County Council backs the proposal – and that is not likely to change when Colin Noble takes over as leader of the authority next week.

Current leader Mark Bee is also responsible for economic development, and said: “As the county town, Ipswich’s success as a premier location is imperative to driving growth across Suffolk. We need to ensure we can work together as a partnership to access funding to support shared economic growth objectives.

“The county council will continue to work with Ipswich Central, the borough council, the New Anglia LEP and other key stakeholders to develop a bright future for Ipswich.”

And Mark Pendlington, Chairman of New Anglia LEP, gave the proposal his backing. He said: “This is a bold and exciting vision presented by Ipswich Central.

“It’s also a call to action for everyone with a passion for the future of Ipswich and its important place at the heart of our region.

“We plan to host a first meeting within the next three weeks to bring all parties together, to agree priorities and set out a timetable to make it happen.”